D-Day: Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi Go for Broke in Historic Convention
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
POLITICS DIGEST- The All Progressives Congress, APC, has a date to keep with history today, Monday, June 6, 2022. The ruling party is set to go for broke as Nigerians and many observers await the outcome of its presidential primaries.
No fewer than 27 aspirants picked the governing party’s expression of interest and presidential nomination forms, with the sole intent of taking over the baton of leadership from President Muhammadu Buhari, on May 29, 2023.
But only 23 of them returned their completed forms, with a lesser number last week facing a screening panel led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, a one-time National Chairman of the APC.
The eventual presidential hopeful to be returned at the June 6 to 8 convention of the ruling party will slug it out with Alh. Atiku Abubakar, in the main election, next year.
Atiku, a former Nigerian Vice President, emerged as PDP’s 2023 presidential candidate, penultimate weekend.
He defeated his arch-rival, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, and 11 others, after Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, had stepped down from the race and backed Atiku.
Unlike the PDP which deployed an indirect/delegate system for its primary election, it seems the APC is comfortable with a consensus arrangement, that will produce its flagbearer.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Politics Digest learnt, has already advised the party to think of the right candidate that possessed outstanding leadership qualities, to succeed him.
While addressing APC Governors last Tuesday ahead of the party’s presidential primary this week, Buhari stated, “The party has successfully established internal policies that promote continuity and smooth succession plans even at the state and local government levels.
“For example, first-term governors who have served credibly well have been encouraged to stand for re-election. Similarly, second-term governors have been accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions as well as the ideals of the party”.
Buhari said he would be seeking reciprocity from the governors to allow him decide his successor.
“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” the President, then, added.
He asked the governors to ensure that all interests ‘converge’ as regards the outcome of the presidential primary.
As Nigerians, with bated breath, eagerly await the consensus APC presidential candidate, or perhaps, Mr. President’s anointed successor, Politics Digest, profiles the top eight (8) aspirants of the governing party, looking at their strength(s) and weakness(es).
ASIWAJU BOLA TINUBU
A former senator, two-term governor of Lagos State and a maverick politician, Tinubu was the first in the APC to openly declare his interest in the 2023 presidency.
Described as the godfather of Lagos, and by extension, South-West politics, he remains the man to beat for the presidential ticket, a project he swore was his life-long ambition. He has cult followership across the length and breadth of the country and seamlessly mixes with fellow politicians from many camps. He is also wealthy and is believed to often deploy enormous resources to vigorously pursue any ambition he nurses. Many acknowledge his role in bringing President Buhari to power and consider 2023 a payback time for him. Aside that, political watchers are of the belief that if the convention goes into voting, Tinubu will win convincingly because he has most of the governors and delegates on his side.
His critics have over the years accused him of shamelessly playing the ‘bullion van’ politics and having a tight grip on governance in Lagos. Over the years, his age and health status have become a source of concern to Nigerians, many of whom are yet to forgive him for selling Buhari to them. Tinubu has also not been able to convincingly explain the source of his stupendous wealth. Many also believe he is not the favourite of the Villa and his recent tirade against the Establishment may also count against him.
This former governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation proved to be one of the few shining lights of the Buhari administration. He has come a long way serving as the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign twice.
His loyalty, competence and experience in governance over the past 23 years will come in handy should he succeed in winning the election. He started his political adventure as a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and became the Speaker. He also led his fellow speakers from across the nation.
Perhaps his greatest strength is standing up to the incumbent President as the Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and later defected from the PDP to the APC and played a leading role in enthroning Buhari.
Amaechi is believed to have a deep pocket, which he is ready to deploy to his advantage. Among the many achievements he recorded as minister was the revitalisation of the railway system across the country.
Amaechi is not firmly in control of his Rivers State base as his issues with one time ally turned foe, Governor Nyesom Wike, are making the home turf very uncomfortable for him. With the way the Southwest seems to be favoured in this race, Amaechi doesn’t stand a very bright chance. Again, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was President recently and the national sentiment may also not favour another South -South President.
The sudden emergence of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in the race came as a big surprise to many Nigerians. Many didn’t see the political calculation that brought him into the race.
Political buffs believe he was pushed into the race by the APC northern bloc to neutralise the likely threat of an Atiku Abubakar in the PDP. He may also have most of his colleagues in the National Assembly on his side.
But his seeming accidental introduction of Section 84 (8) into the new Electoral Act means both him and colleagues have been disenfranchised. Political watchers and analysts also fear he may end up as another puppet for the powers that be because of the way the Senate under his leadership has so far allowed the Buhari regime to have its way on many things. Beyond the National Assembly, his influence as a politician of note is restricted. Most importantly, the fact that the northern governors have conceded the position to the South means an automatic knockout for him even though he has not officially stepped down yet.
PROF YEMI OSINBAJO
When it comes to academics, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has an intimidating curriculum vitae. His strength lies in the wealth of experience he has garnered in the last seven years of this current administration and his previous position as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the cabinet of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Osinbajo is a professor of Law, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and respected Pastor.
His loyalty to President Buhari is acknowledged and may count for him, especially among power brokers in the North. As a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, he has a significant following among members. His performance and decisive actions during the period when Buhari was receiving treatment in the United Kingdom were considered in some quarters as inspiring and he has been able to criss-cross the length and breadth of the country trying to woo delegates.
The seeming cold war between Osinbajo and Tinubu’s supporters, who labelled the Vice-President a ‘betrayer’ for daring to run at a time his political godfather has declared for the presidency casts a shadow on his candidature.
He is also not regarded as a grassroots politician with a solid structure, while his ability to outspend opponents has not been established. His campaign promise to carry on with Buhari’s programme has also not convinced Nigerians that he can be trusted with power.
The sentiments in the North that he is an alleged christian bigot may also count against him.
The poster boy of the ‘Not too young to run’ campaign, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is the only aspirant from the North-Central zone.
Bello is the only governor to be born after the Nigerian Civil War. He was the first to start campaigning for the position with endorsements from youth and women groups from across the country.
Bello signified his intention early and has been spending massively to actualise his ambition. He has reached out to different zones and segments of the society. He is also very accommodating to women, who hold key positions in his campaign organisation.
Advocates of power shift to the South see him as an interloper. His critics also point to the condition of workers and pensioners in Kogi State, who are not being paid regularly as a minus for the governor. Despite claims to the contrary, the security situation in his state has not giving much hope to his ambition.
DR KAYODE FAYEMI
Ever since he staged a comeback to the Ekiti State Government House, Kayode Fayemi’s political relevance has been on the rise.
His carriage and political calculations, especially as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, show he can hold his own in the race. He recorded appreciable achievements as Minister of Solid Minerals Development in President Buhari’s cabinet from November 11, 2015 to May 30, 2018, and is regarded as one of the few dark horses that can spring surprises if he gets his cards right.
He is believed not to have national spread and is not very popular in his South-West base.
The man with the unique, trademark cap, Amosun is a former governor of Ogun State and senator representing Ogun Central.
He is banking on his executive and legislative experience to convince party delegates to give him the ticket. He is also very close to Buhari and many believe that he is the President’s right hand man.
He also has a lot of knowledge of financial management and economy.
The cold war between him and his successor, Dapo Abiodun, may work against him. In the South-West, his influence does not extend beyond Ogun State.
After almost eight years in office as Ebonyi state governor, Umahi has transformed the state in the area of infrastructure.
He courted controversy when he defected from the PDP to the APC in November 2020. A cat with nine lives, he survived the hammer of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, which ordered him and his deputy, Dr Eric Igwe, to vacate office.
If the presidential ticket is to be micro-zoned to the southeast, Umahi will be one of the top contenders.
Except the position is micro-zoned to the southeast, he is not considered strong enough to pick the ticket as he has not stayed long enough in the party.